When I got to Austin I went for a run. Little did I know I’d be “running around” the rest of the week.
From the run I went straight to K1 Speed for a Falken Tire event and had a great time karting and talking with fans. Wolf and I picked teams of four to race with us. “Team Bryan” won, of course, and received tickets to Saturday’s race – and yes, they did show up!
After that, Wolf and I found a Mexican restaurant to follow a longstanding tradition of where we eat on race weekends. Easy to do in Austin!
Because it is a new track, we had two test days at the Circuit of the Americas, Tuesday and Thursday, and we really needed every lap we could get with the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
After the accident in Baltimore totaled the 2012 car, we had to revert to the 2010 model. Fortunately, Scot Elkins and the guys at IMSA really worked with us to help take what we could from the current Porsche and retrofit it to our 2010 car.
While it was nice to be back in the Porsche I won my first two ALMS races in, it would have been nicer to be in the car we won with at Baltimore last year!
A quick glance wouldn’t really show it, but the two cars really are very different. “Falkenstein”, as we started calling the combination car, is narrower, has a different wheelbase, suspension and much more than the model we’ve been racing for the last two years.
In testing, we had to evaluate how the setup would be different and figure out the best set of Falkens for the race. It didn’t take long for us to find out where we were.
To adapt a well-recognized movie phrase, “Austin, we have a problem!”
The car had far too much oversteer. It was too stiff for the current package and the small changes we wanted to make weren’t enough forcing us to to make big changes. Springs, camber and some major aero changes got us closer.
When I took my first laps after the changes we found we were a little too soft and had some major high-speed UNDERsteer. We were going in the right direction; we just went a little too far. We had a day to sort it out and be back on track testing Thursday.
The changes we made began to pay off on Thursday.
Overall, the balance of the car was much better but we still had a ton of understeer on slow speed entry corners and oversteer in the long duration corners. We just couldn’t carry the speed the other cars could.
But, things were looking up as rain was forecasted for Friday. You can’t beat a Falken tire in the rain. You can try, but we’ve shown we have you covered. So, the excitement for the approaching storm was pretty high in the paddock! Downside? A dry forecast for race day. The engineers had some planning to do.
The rain hit on Friday and boy did it hit! Unfortunately, we still had way too much understeer and really struggled for overall balance.
Between sessions, we ran up to visit the Porscheplatz. Since everyone there is a Porsche owner and Porsche Club of America (PCA) member, it makes for a lot of fun. They had a really big crowd even with the rain! COTA was the place everyone wanted to be this weekend!
Right after the visit up to the “Platz”, we had the second practice session. This was also in the rain and it was a repeat of the first practice. Way too much understeer and, in the rain, that kills a lap time. We’re not used to struggling for speed in the rain.
Qualifying was a repeat of the repeat. The lack of overall performance was really confusing considering how close we were to what we always ran in the rain.
Race day was sunny and bright and with it, we found the best performance we had all weekend in the warm-up. Go figure, right? We were still lacking but it was generally better.
After the warm-up we had a debrief to determine our drive time – how we’d split the driving duties. I qualified the car and also would start it. You have to consider the fuel mileage and track position, yellow flags and more when working this out. Then, you change it depending on what happens in the race but you start with a solid plan.
After the autograph session and the grid walk – two parts of an ALMS weekend I love – it was time to get down to the task at hand.
We had a rather uneventful day. That can be good or bad and sometimes it means you finish seventh. We ran as high as second during the pit stop cycle but, unless a yellow flag struck perfectly and we got a lap on the entire field, we knew that that wasn’t going to last.
I handed the car over to Wolf and he drove a smart race, the Falken guys did good pit stops and we came home seventh, highest finishing Porsche in the field after the CORE autosport and Paul Miller Racing guys suffered some setbacks.
The day was just sort of what it was. We’ll try and rally for the next round at Virginia International Raceway in a few weeks.
I have limited space for this but, before I run out, I want to congratulate John for this great new “go to” for international sport car racing news! John didn’t miss a beat when he started Sportscar365 and I am very proud to have been asked to contribute! Here’s to a great future for the site and the sport!